Stocks pared earlier gains to end the session little changed on Thursday, following a volatile session in which doubt was cast on a potential coronavirus treatment from Gilead (GILD), which had counterbalanced the impact of ugly data underscoring the pandemic’s impact on the world economy.
The Chinese trial for Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir produced results that did not give meaningful conclusions on its efficacy, according to a report from the Financial Times, citing World Health Organization documents accidentally released. The study cast the trial as a flop, but Gilead reportedly disputed the characterization of the trial’s results.
Markets have been rallying in recent sessions, despite economic data that’s grown increasingly grim in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. With much of the U.S. economy still in lockdown, investors have been searching for signs that the virus can be contained or mitigated. Last week, a report that provided upbeat anecdotal data on remdesivir’s effectiveness in treating patients with COVID-19 in Chicago sent stocks on a tear.
Investors also digested Thursday’s initial unemployment claims report, which showed that over 4.4 million more individuals filed for unemployment benefits last week. The data represented the fifth consecutive week that new claims posted a seven-digit print, but the number of new claims have declined in the last three weeks.
Since mid-March, new unemployment claims ballooned to more than 26 million, reflecting stunning levels of joblessness as workers were furloughed or laid off in droves — and erasing all of the employment gains made since the end of the last recession.
“It is clear that while the initial wave of job losses were concentrated in retail and hospitality due to the shutdowns, it is spreading to suppliers and to other industries,” James Knightley, chief international economist for ING, wrote in a note Thursday morning. “Terrible manufacturing surveys point to job losses and the business service sector is certainly not going to be immune.”
“It will be interesting to see what happens in the states that are re-opening parts of their economy from this weekend – Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida,” he added. “We would assume jobless claims will fall back sharply here, but if consumers remain reluctant to go shopping or visit a restaurant due to lingering Covid-19 fears, then employment is not going to rebound quickly. As such it would be another signal that a V-shaped recovery for the US economy is highly unlikely.”
Meanwhile, market participants hoped that a quick passage of further fiscal stimulus from Congress would blunt at least some of the economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak, and help bring some back to company payrolls.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a refunding package for the Paycheck Protection Program Thursday afternoon. The legislation would authorize another $320 billion for small business loans – after the original allotment for $349 billion ran out of funds in less than two weeks – and additional funding for hospitals and COVID-19 testing. The Senate cleared the package earlier this week.
4:04 p.m. ET: Stocks close little changed after giving up gains following report of virus drug flop
Here’s where the major indices had settled as of 4:04 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -1.51 (-0.05%) to 2,797.80
Dow (^DJI): +39.44 (+0.17%) to 23,515.26
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -0.63 (-0.01%) to 8,494.75
Crude (CL=F): +$3.23 (+23.44%) to $17.01 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$11.70 (+0.67%) to $1,750.00 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.6 bps to yield 0.6130%
2:50 p.m. ET: Crude oil jumps 20% in rebound after selloff earlier in the week
June futures for West Texas intermediate crude oil (CL=F) rallied 20% Thursday to settle at $16.50 per barrel, recovering losses from earlier in the week. Brent crude (BZ=F), the international benchmark, also settled higher, rising more than 5% to $21.33 per barrel.
12:55 p.m. ET: Stocks rapidly cut gains after FT reports disappointing Gilead coronavirus treatment results in first trial
The S&P 500 wiped out earlier advances of more than 1.6% to trade just 0.6% higher Thursday afternoon, after the Financial Times reported Gilead’s once-promising coronavirus antiviral treatment remdesivir flopped in its first trial.
Shares of Gilead dropped more than 4% to $77.61 each.
11:45 a.m. ET: House gets ready to vote on fresh PPP money as new guidelines announced
The new funding on small business aid is about to be voted on in the House, as the Small Business Administration issued new guidelines to block bigger businesses from trying to tap the money. According to the SBA, applicants for coronavirus relief funds must certify that the loans are necessary and that they cannot tap other sources of funding, the SBA said. By definition, public companies have access to the capital markets.
The controversy comes amid reports that larger, more liquid businesses crowded out their smaller, more needy counterparts — and that big banks may have prioritized wealthier clients with “concierge treatment” in the application process.
11:09 a.m. ET: Stocks extend gains, led by Energy sector
The three major indices added to gains Thursday morning, with the Energy sector leading the S&P 500’s more than 1% advance. Exxon Mobil and Dow Inc. outperformed in the 30-stock Dow.
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 11:09 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): +37.42 points (+1.34%) to 2,836.73
Dow (^DJI): +333.88 points (+1.42%) to 23,809.7
Nasdaq (^IXIC): +111.16 points (+1.28%) to 8,603.67
Crude (CL=F): +$4.03 (+29.25%) to $17.81 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$18.50 (+1.06%) to $1,756.80 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.8 bps to yield 0.611%
10:45 a.m. ET: ‘If you open it, will they come?’
As the debate over states reopening grows more polarized, Bleakley Advisory’s Peter Boockvar posed the above question in a research note to clients. He pointed to the fact that consumers are likely to be psychologically scarred by the lockdowns, and in the absence of a vaccine will still be reluctant to venture out (not to mention that multiple officials have warned of a ‘new normal’ that won’t resemble public life before the stay-at-home orders took effect.
Boockvar also pointed to remarks made by Las Vegas Sands COO Robert Goldstein on a conference call. Here’s what he said:
"we've never seen this kind of a virus on our shores here in the US where we've kind of been taken aback and shell shocked by it. Asia has seen it numerous times, they understand it, they dealt with it. You guys, Hong Kong is open and operating. It never closed in terms of retail and restaurants and they're walking around with gloves and mask and sanitzers and temperature checks...They can deal with it and Macao will deal with it."
Boockvar ends with this point: “...with the assumption that testing further amps up in coming weeks/months, we can do this but it will take time for Americans to 'acclimate' to this new world. Many in Asia have been thru something like this before.”
10:00 a.m. ET: New home sales dropped 15.4% for the month in March, the most in 7 years
New home sales in the U.S. slumped by 15.4% in March for the largest monthly drop since July 2013, as home-buyers stayed on the sidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The drop brought the annualized pace of new home sales to 627,000, down from 741,000 in February, the Census Bureau said in its report. New houses for sale were a seasonally adjusted 333,000 at the end of March, representing a more than six month supply at the current sales rate.
The median sales price for new homes rose over last year to $321,400.
9:45 a.m. ET: U.S. economic output contracts at record pace in April: IHS Markit
IHS Markit’s flash April U.S. composite output index slumped to 27.4 from 40.9 in March from February, hitting the lowest level in survey history and representing the fastest drawdown in private-sector output since the series began in late 2009, according to the report.
The drop was led by a slide in the U.S. services purchasing managers index (PMI), which dropped to a record low of 27.0 in April from 39.8 in March, according to the preliminary monthly survey. Consensus economists expected the services PMI to decline to 30.0, according to Bloomberg data.
The manufacturing PMI declined to a more than 11-year low of 36.9 from 48.5 in March. Readings below the neutral level of 50 indicate contraction.
“The COVID-19 outbreak dealt a blow to the U.S. economy of a ferocity not previously seen in recent history during April. The deterioration in the flash PMI numbers indicates a rate of contraction exceeding that seen even at the height of the global financial crisis, with jobs also being slashed at a rate far exceeding anything previously recorded by the survey,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist for IHS Markit, said in a statement.
“The large swathe of non-essential business that has been shut down temporarily amid efforts to contain the virus means the blow has been most heavily felt in the service sector, and especially for consumer-facing companies in the recreation and travel industries,” he added.
9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks open higher after new jobless claims report
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:31 a.m. ET Thursday:
S&P 500: up 11.31 points, or +0.4% to 2,811.14
Dow: up 75.87 points, or +0.32% to 23,551.69
Nasdaq: up 27.69 points, or +0.33% to 8,526.17
Crude (CL=F): +$2.73 (+19.81%) to $16.51 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$7.00 (+0.4%) to $1,745.30 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -0.6 bps to yield 0.613%
8:30 a.m. ET: New unemployment claims totaled 4.427 million last week
New unemployment insurance claims totaled a seasonally adjusted 4.427 million for the week ended April 18, the Department of Labor said Thursday. The prior week’s level was revised down to 5.237 million from the 5.245 million reported previously.
The new data brought the total new claims filed over the past five weeks to more than 26 million.
Continuing unemployment claims, which are reported on a one-week lag, were a seasonally adjusted 15.976 million for the week ended April 11. This marked a fresh record high, and rose from the prior week’s 11.912 million continuing jobless claims.
Consensus economists had expected new unemployment claims to come in at 4.427 million for the week ended April 18, and for continuing claims to total 16.738 million for the week ended April 11, according to Bloomberg data.
7:15 a.m. ET: Eli Lilly 1Q results top expectations after consumer prescription-buying boost during outbreak
Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly (LLY) posted first-quarter results that beat consensus expectations on the top and bottom lines, after consumers stocked up on prescriptions amid the coronavirus outbreak and stay-in-place orders.
“The company estimates that revenue in the first quarter of 2020 for many of its products was favorably impacted by increased customer buying patterns and patient prescription trends resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic that increased revenue by approximately $250 million worldwide,” Eli Lilly said in a statement. “The company believes that the increase in U.S. revenue from COVID-19 primarily impacted its portfolio of diabetes medicines, with estimated increases of approximately $70 million to $80 million for insulin products and approximately $30 million to $40 million for Trulicity.”
Trulicity revenues surged 40% over last year to $1.23 billion. Taltz, an autoimmune disease treatment, saw a 76% jump in sales over last year to $443.5 million.
Eli Lilly delivered company-wide adjusted earnings per share of $1.75 on revenue of $5.86 billion, topping expectations for $1.51 per share on revenue of $5.49 billion, according to Bloomberg data.
7:03 a.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures slightly lower ahead of jobless claims report
Here were the main moves at the start of the overnight session for U.S. equity futures, as of 6:05 p.m. ET Wednesday evening:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): down 2.75 points, or -0.10% to 2,785.75
Dow futures (YM=F): down 50 points, or -0.21% to 23,306.00
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): down 15 points, or -0.17% to 8,623.00
Crude (CL=F): +$1.59 (+11.54%) to $15.37 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$11.50 (+0.66%) to $1,749.80 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): +0.8 bps to yield 0.627%
6:05 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures little changed, steadying after regular-session advances
Here were the main moves at the start of the overnight session for U.S. equity futures, as of 6:05 p.m. ET Wednesday evening:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): up 1.75 points, or +1.75% to 2,790.25
Dow futures (YM=F): up 15 points, or +0.06% to 23,371.00
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): up 2.25 points, or +0.03% to 8,640.25